“WE WANT the woman on the bass,” shouts the crowd in Scrunter’s classic calypso, ‘Woman on the Bass’. It’s been almost four decades since that tune made its debut and it was only on Sunday that its call was heeded with the historic election of Beverly Ramsey-Moore as Pan Trinbago’s first female president.
Though Pan Trinbago was incorporated by an act of Parliament in 1986, its history goes much further back. It was formed in 1971 but the steel band movement goes back to 1950. Which makes it all the more remarkable that it is only now that it has had a female leader.
Undoubtedly, pan’s early association with gang warfare led to a perception of the instrument as a particularly gendered thing. Yet, just as it is unfair to make generalisations about pan and its practitioners, so too is it misguided to believe that the national instrument is meant for one group of people or another.
Music does not discriminate in its ability to bring crowds to their feet. So we welcome heartily the long overdue arrival of the woman on the bass. Ramsey-Moore has a challenging mandate to deal with the issues that have been bedeviling Pan Trinbago and, in the process, keeping back progress on the promotion of our national instrument.
The new executive will have to organise its affairs, both internal and external, in such a way as to reinforce good practices and to take pan even further. At a time of rapid political, economic, or technological change globally, how we understand and promote pan will have to reflect new realities.
In many respects, Ramsey-Moore’s election itself mirrors this dynamism. But restoring trust, addressing instances of mismanagement and dealing with corruption must now be at the top of the agenda. Also, perennial problems in the disbursal of funds to pan players needs to become a thing of the past.
It is also notable that Ramsey-Moore hails from Tobago, having served as a member of the Tobago House of Assembly and as a manager of the Black-Rock based Katzenjammers Steel Orchestra there. This could be an opportunity to foster greater synergy and collaboration, especially since pan is a vital part of our cultural identity, the identity that brings tourists to our islands. There is greater room for collaboration in Tobago in this regard.
Pan Trinbago also has to examine ways of functioning beyond the tradition Carnival weekend paradigm. It must position itself as more than just a stakeholder in that festival. It should have a calendar of activities that goes on all year, reflecting its wider role of fostering pan.
Also making history was Denise Hernandez who took the post of secretary, 26-year-old Lauren Pierre who was voted-in as assistant secretary. All are to be congratulated and we wish them every success in their new roles